The three main types of arteriosclerosis are atherosclerosis, medial calcificsclerosis, and arteriolosclerosis. Arteriosclerosis is a type of vascular disease that causes the arteries to harden.

As someone’s arteries harden, the arterial walls begin to lose elasticity and weaken. However, a person with arteriosclerosis may initially have no symptoms at all. This is why regular checkups are important to ensure doctors can treat the condition as soon as possible.

This article discusses the different types of arteriosclerosis. It also explores the symptoms, risk factors, complications, and treatments. Additionally, the article answers some common questions about arteriosclerosis.

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Below are the three main types of arteriosclerosis.


This is a common condition in which plaque accumulates in a person’s arteries, attracting immune cells and additional biological debris. This accumulation causes the arteries to harden and narrow.

According to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, around 50% of Americans between the ages of 45–84 years have atherosclerosis and do not know it.

Medial calcificsclerosis

This condition tends to affect people with diabetes and peripheral arterial disease (PAD), which is a type of arterial disease that affects the legs and lower extremities. Some people may refer to this condition as Mönckeberg’s medial calcific sclerosis.

Medial calcificsclerosis involves arterial hardening and narrowing due to a buildup of calcium deposits in medium-sized arteries. It typically begins in the arteries of the feet and then moves up toward the center of the body. Like atherosclerosis, some people develop plaque deposits, too.


This arterial condition affects very small arteries, which healthcare professionals call arterioles. For example, those that are deep within the brain. When these small vessels harden and narrow it can increase the risk of stroke. These arteries tend not to have plaque and harden in response to high blood pressure.

The symptoms a person experiences usually depend on where in the body the affected arteries are located.

For example, if the hardening has occurred in brain arterioles, a person may have more issues with their cognition, which may affect their speech, memory, and thinking. They may also experience a loss of vision.

Alternatively, if most of the symptoms are localized to arteries in the legs and feet, a person may experience weakness and pain in their legs, reduced mobility, or pain when walking.

If arteriosclerosis affects a person’s intestines, it may cause unintentional weight loss, severe pain after eating a meal, and diarrhea. In some people, erectile dysfunction may indicate that someone has arteriosclerosis.

Symptoms of arteriosclerosis due to coronary artery disease (CAD) may include:

If a person experiences any symptoms that could be due to a heart attack or stroke, they should call 911 immediately.

Certain health conditions may increase someone’s risk of developing arteriosclerosis, such as:

Other risk factors include a lack of regular exercise and smoking. A person’s risk of developing the condition also increases with age, particularly in women who are 55 years old or more and men who are 45 years old or more.

There are several complications associated with arteriosclerosis. For example, CAD can lead to other complications, including:

Conditions affecting the brain, such as:

PAD, which can lead to problems with the limbs due to chronically reduced blood flow, such as:

Arteriosclerosis can also lead to organ damage, which can cause further issues, such as chronic kidney disease and mesenteric artery ischemia, or reduced blood flow to the intestines.

When a person has arteriosclerosis, a doctor will likely recommend a person change aspects of their lifestyle in addition to taking medication.

Lifestyle changes

There are many lifestyle changes a person can make that can benefit their heart’s health, such as:

These lifestyle modifications can also help prevent arteriosclerosis.


Medications for arteriosclerosis aim to reduce blood pressure and minimize the amount of plaque that accumulates in the arteries. Some examples include:

If a person has diabetes, a healthcare professional may also recommend medications that control blood sugar, such as:

Below are answers to some of the most common questions about the types of arteriosclerosis.

What is the difference between atherosclerosis and arteriosclerosis?

Arteriosclerosis describes the hardening and narrowing of arteries. It is a term that encapsulates other cardiovascular diseases that make arteries less flexible. These include atherosclerosis, medial calcificsclerosis, and arteriolosclerosis.

Atherosclerosis is an inflammatory disease and a specific type of arteriosclerosis. It causes plaque deposits to accumulate in the arteries, which in turn increases their rigidity.

What is the most common form of arteriosclerosis?

Coronary heart disease is the most common type of heart disease. It occurs when plaque accumulates in the arteries that supply blood to the heart itself. Because atherosclerosis is the disease that causes this plaque accumulation, it is the most common form of arteriosclerosis.

The three main types of arteriosclerosis are atherosclerosis, medial calcificsclerosis, and arteriolosclerosis. Arteriosclerosis reduces the elasticity of arteries, making them less flexible.

Symptoms of arteriosclerosis vary depending on where the affected arteries are in a person’s body. However, in the early stages of the condition, a person may not experience any symptoms. Health complications people may develop due to arteriosclerosis include stroke, heart attack, and chronic kidney disease.

Treatments for arteriosclerosis may involve a mixture of lifestyle changes and medication. Lifestyle changes include eating heart-healthy foods and sleeping well. Making certain lifestyle changes can also help prevent arteriosclerosis. Doctors prescribe medications that aim to reduce blood pressure and plaque deposits.